Tokyo! movie poster


Tokyo! is a port­man­teau film com­prised of three shorts set in the epony­mous city, all by direc­tors not them­selves from Japan: Michel Gondry and Léos Carax from France, and Bong Joon-ho from South Korea.

Gondry’s “Inte­ri­or Design” is based on the com­ic book “Cecil and Bell in New York” by Gabrielle Bell, with the action trans­posed to Tokyo. At first, her low-key love sto­ry doesn’t seem to bear Gondry’s char­ac­ter­is­tic whim­si­cal sur­re­al­i­ty, but by the end her col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gondry makes per­fect sense. Young cou­ple Hiroko (Ayako Fuji­tani, daugh­ter of Steven Sea­gal) and Aki­ra (Ryo Kase) move to Tokyo, with the hope of find­ing audi­ences for Akira’s pre­ten­tious films. With­out prospects, they crash on the floor of a child­hood friend’s minis­cule flat and quick­ly out­stay their wel­come. Their opti­mism to find jobs and an apart­ment is quick­ly dashed — only Aki­ra is suit­ed to menial work, and they can’t even afford the city’s dingi­est rat traps. Like April (Kate Winslet) in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road, (read The Dork Report review) Hiroko doesn’t have much ambi­tion of her own beyond sup­port­ing her artist part­ner. After going to extra­or­di­nary lengths on Akira’s behalf with­out feel­ing appre­ci­at­ed, Hiroko under­goes a fan­tas­ti­cal trans­for­ma­tion and winds up lit­er­al­ly sup­port­ing a dif­fer­ent artist. The sig­nif­i­cance of title comes clear as she lit­er­al­ly becomes part of the scenery.

Ayako Fujitani and Ryo Kase in TokyoHiroko and Aki­ra in Tokyo

In Carax’s scat­o­log­i­cal “Merde,” Tokyo is ter­ror­ized by a mad cau­casian with a twisty gin­ger beard and a rig­or­ous diet of flow­ers, yen, and cig­a­rettes. The “sew­er crea­ture” (so named by the media) is rel­a­tive­ly harm­less until he dis­cov­ers a cache of grenades in a for­got­ten World War II-era bunker buried beneath the city. Only after he uses Impe­r­i­al Japan’s own weapons against them in a ter­ri­ble mas­sacre is he tracked down in his sew­er lair and appre­hend­ed. At this point, Carax’s short film becomes a court­room dra­ma, in which eccen­tric French mag­is­trate Maître Voland (Jean-François Balmer) claims to be able to inter­pret the terrorist’s rav­ings, not least includ­ing his name: Merde (“shit”). His scan­dalous speech­es incite Japan­ese self-loathing and racism, but the pop­u­lace curi­ous­ly fails to ques­tion whether Voland is some kind of mad ven­tril­o­quist voic­ing his own prej­u­dices through the mouth of an idiot. Merde becomes a pop icon; duel­ing gangs of pick­eters chant “FREE MERDE” ver­sus “HANG MERDE.” Merde is sen­tenced to a Christ-like exe­cu­tion (which also very much resem­bles a sim­i­lar sequence in Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark), fol­lowed by a cap­tion that threat­ens a sequel set in New York.

Merde Tokyo!Free Merde!

Bong Joon-ho’s “Shak­ing Tokyo” is the tale of a unnamed hikiko­mori (shut-in) liv­ing alone in a total­ly ivy-cov­ered house, finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed by a father he hasn’t seen in years. The ago­ra­phobe (Teruyu­ki Kagawa) has become accus­tomed to a life of lone­li­ness and rig­or­ous rou­tine. One day he meets a cute piz­za deliv­ery girl (Yu Aoi), out of his league in terms of looks, but appar­ent­ly with her own share of crip­pling emo­tion­al issues. She pass­es out in his foy­er dur­ing an earth­quake (not uncom­mon in the vol­canic islands of Japan), and the hikiko­mori reboots her using her self-tat­tooed but­tons on her body that appear to lit­er­al­ly con­trol her mood and health. The smit­ten lon­er escapes his self-cre­at­ed prison to seek her out again. He finds a city full of shut-ins, for whom even anoth­er earth­quake isn’t enough to keep them out of their own homes for long.

Yu Aoi  and Teruyuki Kagawa in Tokyo!One large pie with extra neu­roses

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